Ibero-Amerikanisches Institut
Preussischer Kulturbesitz

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Visual memory of Latin America. Indexing and Digitization of the Glass Plate Collection of the Ibero-American Institute

CoordinationDr. Gregor Wolff


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1. Co-applicant


2. Project Group


IAI staff

  • Nadja Ronnisch    
  • Gudrun Schumacher   
  • Szymon Kasprzyk   


3. Short description

Point of departure


The glass plate collection of the Ibero-American Institute contains a portfolio of photographic documents of different types and origins from the period between about 1870 and 1940. It consists of over 9,300 images, including about 6,200 glass-negative-plates, 2,100 glass-sildes (some colored) and 1,000 large-format sheet film negatives. Currently, the images are stored almost exclusively in the original packaging (cardboard- and metal-boxes). The collection is due to old age in a poor state and parts of it are acutely threatened by decay. The importance and the scientific value of the glass plate collection of the IAI are derived from their size, the prominent origin and the unique composition of the material. The collection includes rare and for the most part unpublished visual documents about archaeological, ethnographic, historical and regional issues of Latin America. In addition, the valuable documents represent unique visual sources on the activities of the pioneers of Latin American Studies. The glass plate collection includes images of expeditions and research topics of some of the most important German-speaking scientists in American archaeology (Walter Lehmann, Teobert Maler Eduard Seler, Max Uhle), Ethnology (Paul Ehrenreich, William Kissenberth, Robert Lehmann-Nitsche) and geography (Hans Steffen ) as well as images of regional and propagandistic depiction of Brazil (Guilherme Gaelzer-Neto).


By indexing, cataloging and digitizing the glass plate collection of the IAI, the unique, partly unpublished photographic images concerning archaeological, ethnographic and regional issues of Latin America will be provided for the first time for the national and international scientific community. The project contributes to the preservation of the cultural heritage of Latin America and the work of the trans- and internationally operating German scientists in the region. It also opens up access to a comprehensive amount of yet unexplored visual documents for further research. The data and digital copies are already available in the course of project work via the online catalogue OPAC of the IAI and the Common Library Network (GBV). After completion of the project they will be available via multiple search portals such as Europeana, Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek (DDB) and the Digital Collections IAI.

Task Schedule

The entire collection will be processed in four parts. After cleaning, indexing and packaging the different parts will be transferred to digitization to an external service.

Expected Results

After cataloging and digitizing the precious images of the unique glass plate collection owned by the IAI are available for further research. In order to introduce them to a broader public, a publication and an exhibition is being prepared.


4. Products



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